Ancestor Figure, Konyak People, Nagaland, India or Burma 19th C
This old and well used ancestor figure from the Konyak Naga people in India or Burma is carved in the traditional squatting position and with the hands held to the sides of cheeks. The veneration of an important ancestor whose memory is worthy of commemorating is imbued into this sculpture, most likely the figure had a personal name. Headhunting among the Naga tribes is legendary and a great source of aggravation during the British Colonial era. For the Naga as also with some New Guinea tribes headhunting was essential to the spiritual well being of communities. This figure was collected before WW2 by a British Colonial and brought back to the UK where it had been in one family ever since.
Before Christianity took over traditional Naga Culture each village had its own Morung ceremonial house. The morung, was also sometimes called a “youth dormitory” and was an essential part of Naga life. Apart from the family, a person’s time living in the morung was the most important part of education and acculturation. The morungs were grand buildings, constructed at the village entrance or in a spot to be effectively guarded. Beginning at puberty, young boys and girls were admitted to their respective gender dormitories. Elders conveyed the Naga culture, customs, and traditions from generation to generation through folk music and dance, folk tales and oral tradition, wood carving and weaving,while the young lived in the morung.
The figure would date from the late 19th – early 20th Century.
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